Faculty Profile: Dr. Melissa Ramirez

melissa ramirez research distance education

Dr. Melissa Ramirez, a Teaching Assistant Professor at NC State, joined the faculty of Department of Biological Sciences in 2014. She earned her Ph.D. in Biological Sciences from Virginia Tech and specializes in Microbiology, Immunology, and Infectious Diseases.

Dr. Ramirez teaches students, focuses on the scholarship of teaching and learning in microbiology, and defines best practices to enhance inclusion in life sciences education. She tells us about her current research projects and her role in distance education.

Research in Science Learning

One of Dr. Ramirez’s current projects, funded by DELTA, is focused on developing tactile teaching tools to increase inclusivity in science learning.

“In the Biological Sciences, we have traditionally relied on lecturing or showing two-dimensional images representative of three-dimensional structures. Moreover, these things are interacting within 3D and over a period of time,” says Dr. Ramirez. “These traditional teaching approaches used in the biology classroom completely exclude students with visual impairments and disadvantaged students with learning differences that affect their interpretation and processing of visual and spatial information, as well as students who simply do not identify as ‘visual learners’.”

Dr. Ramirez continues, “By using new technologies to develop tactile teaching tools that can be employed both in the classroom and by distant learners, we move toward more inclusive learning environments. We provide more effective instruction to the diverse learners enrolled in our in-person and online courses.”

This ongoing research project is being developed with Dr. Claire Gordy and undergraduate research assistants Felix Harris and Drew Phillips. You can read more about their research here.

Distance Education

Dr. Ramirez has been teaching distance education courses since joining NC State faculty in 2014. She says that the biggest difference between on-campus education and distance education is distance education lacks the immediate feedback that is possible in a classroom setting.

“In a classroom, if students are struggling, I can pick up on that. It’s much tougher online. To help with that, I try to give students multiple means of providing that feedback, whether it’s asking questions or interacting with content and peers,” says Dr. Ramirez.

Overall, however, Dr. Ramirez believes distance education offers great benefits for students as it encourages accessibility and flexibility that is crucial in education.

“Students have demanding lives. They work, they have families, and they have other coursework,” she emphasizes. “Giving students the autonomy to pace their coursework according to their schedules means we can serve students who otherwise couldn’t make it to campus for a class at a set time. We are able to reach more students and make education more accessible.”

Check back each month as we discuss different topics in microbiology and learn more about the online programs at NC State.